Road Atlas of the United States: Choose Your Own Adventure

I waltzed into work the other day and opened my mailbox (to make sure I had gotten my paycheck) and inside, found a thick road map of the United States. It was fresh and new–smelt like paper and ink. I pulled it out slowly and smiled. My mother’s good friend was a flight attendant and I knew right away it was from her. Inside, a note read:


Enjoy the journey — Always look out the window and mark the spots where you’ve been. 

Love, Cathy

It was a simple note. Sitting on the other side of its glossy cover. I started flipping through the pages, full of green, blue and orange. Jagged streets; red blue and black. Full of interstate highways, cities, towns…places I’d never been and places I was going. Inside, I was filled with warmth in adventure. I put the atlas in my purse to read through it on our descent into Florida that evening.

Sure enough, my stomach felt the first hints of dropping and I excitedly pulled out the atlas and flipped eagerly into Florida. We were flying into Fort Myers and I knew we would be cruising along the coast. The sun was dropping dramatically in the west and the horizon was black on a fiery orange–sandwiched in between an oddly fresh blue. I tried to take a picture with my cell phone and like usual, it couldn’t capture its depth and drama.

I positioned my atlas so the coast was facing away from me. I looked out the window toward the ocean. I could see the deep indent in Tallahasse. I could see St.Vincent Island push further away from the last piece of land. I felt like the only person in the airplane who knew where we were (aside from the pilots). I felt secretly worldy. I felt like I was going somewhere. And way up there in the sky, I felt like I knew where I was going. My feet were planted firmly on the hallow plane floor. And for once, it felt steady.

I highlighted Fort Myers, Punta Gorda and Lakeland Florida on my road atlas. Because we were heading quickly toward a 3-day layover there. I scanned through the rest of the map and highlighted Washington DC, Las Vegas, Boston and Seattle. I couldn’t wait to highlight more. And I couldn’t wait to fill the map with neon dashes.

As we came closer to ground and city lights started protruding from dark chasms of earth, I pressed my face against the cold window. Condensation ruined my peripherals but I took it all in. Although plane windows are small, I wanted to remember to always look out them–and never forget where I was. When you travel a lot, it’s easy to forget that you are in an entirely different city. I was thousands of miles away from home and my road atlas was going to stand as a reminder. Of how much more world I was going to see than the average person. My insides tremored in excitement.

On the back of the atlas, was a photo of a winding black top road. A quote read,

“Maps open a world of possibilities, to travelers of every kind. Through charted courses and roads yet to be discovered. So, take that highway by storm. Navigate your business to success. Choose your own adventure.”

I nodded to myself. I was choosing mine. And it was a fancy and colorful array of winding streets, wind, stories and substance. Tasty.

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Categories: Read


University of Saint Thomas graduate. Minnesota-bred and happy to talk about the weather any time you’d like! Strongly believes any situation can be bettered by a slice of generously buttered toast or Phil Dunphy. Would get arrested to touch Justin Timberlake’s face. Always trying to be a better person by not wishing horrible karma on people driving slow in the fast lane. Hear more: @twitter @instagram


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